A Conservative administration protected the City from congestion; a Labour-Green Coalition caused traffic chaos
Twelve years ago, on 8 September 2008, Officers at Brighton & Hove City Council briefed the Conservative Group on a proposal for a new cycle lane in the City.
The Conservatives had been elected a year earlier as the governing administration at the City Council after residents had tired of many years of Labour control and officers were looking to our Administration to give a swift go-ahead for a cycle lane proposal.
The proposal presented to the Administration was titled ‘Old Shoreham Road, Brighton Cycle Route Scheme’ – and constituted a £2 million plan to install a cycle lane on each side of the length of Old Shoreham Road, to be achieved by narrowing down the road and altering the road layout, with a decrease in road capacity at A293 junction.
Officers advised that there was a degree of urgency to take advantage of £1.5 million offered by Cycling England Funding and that the scheme had to be delivered quickly, between 2008 and 2010. An urgent decision was requested.
Our Conservative Administration under the Leadership of Councillor Mary Mears always took an integrated city-wide approach to transport policy – looking at the bigger picture for the City rather than the cycle lane in its isolation. After all Old Shoreham Road is a key arterial road and the City’s economy was at risk from any tinkering.
So instead of rubber stamping the plan, Cllr Mears insisted on thoroughly investigating its wider impact. The Conservative Administration, having undertaken a site visit, requested a more detailed study as we could not accept the briefing note’s one paragraph claiming that a preliminary traffic capacity study using theoretical principles had shown only minimal impact.
As suspected, when this report came back, it showed that the cycle lane would cause traffic congestion with potential problems for emergency vehicles, heavy goods transport and frustration for the general public who would have longer journey times and spend less times with their families as a result.
Having taken an integrated transport policy approach, the Conservative administration advised officers that we would not be proceeding with the proposal as it would hurt the environment, cause congestion and pollution and that alternative options should be looked at.
History repeats itself
Fast forward to May 2020 and history repeated itself as a full-length Old Shoreham Road cycle lane was once again proposed by the Council.
But this time there was a different administration and a different outcome.
At the start of the pandemic the Government made funding available to local councils for active travel measures to encourage walking and cycling.
This could have been used for a wide scope of potential projects – widened pavements for the walkers and the elderly or indeed cycles lanes in the outer suburbs where they are desperately needed.
But instead of this, the plans for the Old Shoreham Road Cycle Lane were dusted off and presented to the City Council’s Labour administration. Just like in 2008, Council Officers said there was a degree of urgency or funding could opportunity could be lost.
But this time, instead of conducting due diligence, the proposal was rubber stamped by Labour.
Overnight, the Temporary Old Shoreham Road Cycle Lane was installed, taking 2 lanes out of the 4-lane dual carriageway, much to the surprise of Ward Councillors and residents who had not been consulted. It remains to this day.
As The Argus has reported, the Temporary Cycle Lane has caused much controversy in the community since.
Cars are bumper to bumper in congestion at peak times and residents have reported having to keep their windows closed due to the rise in pollution from the crawling cars.
An article in The Telegraph last month listed Old Shoreham Road Temporary Cycle Lane as one of 8 of Britain’s least used cycle lanes in an article entitled ‘Worst offenders: Britain’s barely used cycle lanes’.
The article published statistics showing that despite taking up 2 lanes of the four lane dual carriageway, only 27 cycles used the lane compared to 1242 cars during the evening rush hour on day when the weather was fine.
It is common sense that reducing traffic road capacity by 2 lanes would lead to more congestion and these statistics bear this out.
So why is the cycle lane still in place? For three Consecutive Council meeting Labour and the Greens have voted to keep the cycle lane in place at Old Shoreham Road – despite community opposition including a Council survey showing 63% wanted it removed. Each Conservative attempt to have the cycle lane removed has been voted down.
By not taking a bigger picture integrated transport policy approach, Labour and the Greens have created more pollution and carbon emissions, not less.
The Conservatives have been consistent – we support cycle lanes but only as part of an integrated plan - not where they cause congestion and emissions in the City.